Antarctic Christchurch, the oldest city in the land of Kiwi which located in the Cantebury region, is the largest city in New Zealand’s South Island and the third in the country (after Auckland and Wellington). Christchurch is vibrant city and strongly influenced by British style. So, many big universities are mostly concentrated here. Visitors also really like this city for its peaceful and quaint beauty. Archaeological evidence shows that people first arrived here in 1250. And only from the 17th century, Christchurch officially became a city, this is also the first city of New Zealand.
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So, is Christchurch worth visiting, how to visit Christchurch, what to do in Christchurch and how to plan a budget trip to Christchurch for the first-time perfectly? Let’s check out our Christchurch travel blog (Christchurch blog) with the fullest Christchurch travel guide (guide to Christchurch, Christchurch tourist guide, Christchurch city guide, Christchurch guide) from how to get to Christchurch, best places to visit, best time to come, what to eat as well as top things to do in Christchurch to help you maximize your trip as follows!
Christchurch is known as the “garden city” of New Zealand because of its many parks and trees. Trees cover almost the whole city with clean and fresh air. Among more than 1,000 parks but up to 740 parks have an area of up to 3,000 hectares. In addition, inside the city is also designed with more 80km of pedestrian roads and walkways.
Christchurch travel blog: Overview of Christchurch
New Zealand is a rich country, the standard of living here is high, but the gap between the rich and the poor is not too different, perhaps that is the point that makes it becomes one of the most livables places in the world. You rarely see frivolous luxury, so does Christchurch, people live peacefully, not hustle and jostle. The richer people will find themselves somewhere comfortable in the hills or near the coast, to get close to nature away from the bustle of urban areas.
Located in one third of the way to the east coast, Christchurch is a convenient gateway to get to other parts of the island. Not only that, located in the east of the Canterbury Plains, the “garden city” has a satellite port town called Lyttleton, near the Port Hills – where a stop of large-sized passenger ships including ferries, yachts, ocean liners, and cruise ships to drop off its passengers and visiting.
After being devastated by two major earthquakes in 2010 and 2011, Chrishchurch is coming back to life. The redevelopment of the downtown area and the suburbs devastated is happening at a rapid pace. Many heritage buildings have been lost, but there are still many interesting places towards a bright future. The central area was bustling, vibrant back with bars, restaurants, shops, new residential areas. Just an hour’s drive from Mt Hutt Ski Area, the city is a major hub for skiers and snowboarders in their quest to find the best ski locations. In addition, visitors can also easily access countless salmon fishing spots on rivers and lakes.
The city is located on the west coast, to the north of Banks Peninsula, has only nearly 400,000 people with an area of 1,426 km² but is always crowded and bustling by the number of international students, immigrants and tourists.
Christchurch city is the tourist gateway to South Island. Tourists often fly here, then travel to other parts of New Zealand by plane or self-drive car rental. Tours and tourist buses Kiwi, Stray also depart from here. So if you are planning a trip to New Zealand and do not know where to start, you already have the answer.
Christchurch has been hit by many earthquakes in history. In which the heaviest is the magnitude 6.3 earthquake in February 2011, causing 185 deaths. In the same year 2011, there were two major earthquakes in June and December, the entire city center and the surrounding areas were affected, so badly that the airport was closed and flights were delayed. Roads, houses, and old buildings were destroyed, including the cathedral.
Christchurch travel blog: When to go
Christchurch has a temperate climate, moderate rainfall, and many sunny days, even in winter, when the temperature usually drops below 0°C. Winter months fall in the middle of the year and sometimes snow, dense frosts appear more often. Summer begins at Christmas with warm, mild weather, with temperatures sometimes exceeding 30°C.
Recently, the annual Ellerslie Flower Show is no longer being held here, but the city still has countless other cultural and recreational activities. For example, the Buskers Festival, held for 21 consecutive years, takes place on Christchurch streets from mid to late January, attracting visitors from all over the world. There is also the New Zealand Cup and Show Day Races, which runs from early to mid-November, a combination of horse racing, fashion shows, culinary, recreational activities for locals and visitors.
Christchurch travel guide: How to get
Most tourists traveling to New Zealand will land at Auckland Airport. Then, you can take domestic flights to Christchurch with flight time between 1 hour 30 minutes and 2 hours.
Christchurch International Airport information
- 12km from the city center
- Travel time: 15-20 minutes
- Taxi prices are around NZ$ 45-65
- Super Shuttle Bus Prices From NZ$ 24
- Metro bus 29 price NZ$ 8/adult, NZ$ 5/child
- Airport parking fees NZ$ 12 for the first two hours, NZ$ 8 per hour thereafter, NZ$ 25 for all-day parking.
Christchurch blog: Getting around
Two bus companies, Red Bus and Go Bus Christchurch, and one ferry provide service under the common brand Metro (www.metroinfo.co.nz), with multiple routes running throughout the city and to other locations. The Central Station is located on Lichfield and Tuam streets. The ferry connects Lyttleton with Diamond Harbour. Christchurch trams run around the city center, mainly for tourists. In addition, cycling is also a fun way to visit this flat city.
Christchurch travel guide: What to do and where to go
Cathedral Square is the first place that you definitely must-go when traveling to Christhchurch. The main point of the square is the Christchurch Cathedral. The church was built in Gothic architectural style in 1881 with a height of 63m but has been affected by earthquakes and has partially damaged but was restored in late 2011.
The aftermath of the earthquakes severely damaged heritage buildings in Cathedral Square, but some artworks such as Neil Dawson’s 18 meter tall Chalice metal sculpture was unaffected. Visitors coming here will admire and learn about art works that have existed for a long time.
You can also visit Cardboard Cathedral, a temporary alternative church made of cardboard, wood, and glass.
New Regent Street
As a walking street located in the heart of Christchurch city. This street is adorned with colorful Spanish-style buildings and restaurants. In the middle of the street is a tram train track that takes visitors around the city.
New Regent Street was once known as the most beautiful street in New Zealand. Bustling, vibrant, brilliant are the best adjectives to describe this place. It is a big regret if you visit Christchurch without visiting New Regent Street to take some memorable “virtual life” photos.
Canterbury Museum is the most beautiful and magnificent museum in Canterbury region in particular and the South Island in general. Come here you can see the history of immigration of British people, Europeans in New Zealand, the sacrifices of New Zealanders in World War I. The exhibition area of the Antarctic expeditions, the Maori gallery with reliefs, and pounamu jade (greenstone) are characteristic jewels of the Maori. The museum also houses the Egyptian mummy of Tash Pen Khonsu dating back to 150 BC.
Canterbury Museum is located on Rolleston Avenue. This place is close to the botanical garden so you can combine in one trip after visiting the botanical garden. Because of this, I mentioned above that you should park yur car outside because there is no time limit.
Inside the museum, there are a lot of interesting pictures and information, such as on the 4th floor is the floor recreating the lives of the first people who set foot on Antarctica, while on the first floor is the floor about Aboriginal people in New Zealand, the Maori. The remaining floors are the display area of Asia such as Japanese or Chinese culture, the third floor is the coffee and discovery area for children (the ticket price to this area about NZ$ 3).
Address: Rolleston Avenue, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch 8013, New Zealand
Opened: December 3, 1867
The poetic and quaint harbour of Lyttelton was once the British port of entry when they found it here. To preserve this historic heritage, the restaurants and cafes in Lyttelton are also simply, historically and elegantly decorated. Do not forget to order a cup of coffee to sip while enjoying the beauty of Lyttelton.
If you come to Lyttelton on Saturday, you can visit the weekend market, in addition to the main products, this market also sells seafood.
Alternatively, from Lyttelton, you can also take a train to Kaikoura or Timaru.
Activities you can can participate in Lyttelton: Bathing, hiking, walking, eating / drinking …
Address: 20 Oxford Street, Lyttelton 8082, New Zealand
Christchurch Botanic Gardens
This is a must-visit place if you travel to Christchurch. I have never seen a botanical garden as large as this place, perhaps more than 25 hectares. If you self-drive to getting here, remember to park your car on the street, because in the botanical garden, it is only allowed to park for about 3 hours, and I think 3 hours that is not enough to visit all of this area.
The botanical garden has a diverse flora system, from plants living in temperate regions to tropical plants such as bananas, coconuts, orchids, cactus.. All kinds of trees and plants. If you get tired of your legs while visiting this area, you can visit the only cafe here to rest for a while.
Rent a boat and cruise on the Avon River
After visiting the botanical garden, you can also rent a boat to enjoy sightseeing on the Avon River and its banks, the most poetic and romantic river in Christchurch. The Avon River flows around the botanical garden and the river water is so clear that you can see both the riverbed and the fish swimming in the river.
Near Canterbury Museum is the City Art Gallery of Christchurch which has many paintings created by New Zealand, Australian, and European artists from the 18th and 19th centuries. If you have traveled around New Zealand, you should come here to see the paintings in New Zealand landscape exhibiton. It feels so nostalgic and pity to see places I have passed through from Milford Sound, Fiordland mountains, Fox Glacier, Queenstown, … painted on canvas and linen from hundreds of years ago. The scenes I saw still untouched as when the artists living from the 18th and 19th centuries followed trains to exploit and paint the scenery here through their paintings.
Address: Montreal Street, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch 8013, New Zealand
Opened: May 10, 2003
Street Art in Christchurch
Street art, in particular murals, helps revive the city that had been ravaged by earthquakes. Without these vivid colorful murals, Christchurch would be bleak and desolate.
If you have plenty of time in Christchurch, you can spend a day visiting the Akaroa peninsula, called “little France” because there are many cafes and Airbnb houses in French village style. From the center of Christchurch there are shuttle buses to Akaroa for one hour/one way and you can visit here within a day.
The Christchurch Arts Centre was built in 1877, is located on the grounds of the Gothic College buildings. This place is the ideal place for those who love and passion about art. And this is the school of the famous physicist Sir Ernest Rutherford – the first physicist to successfully separate atoms.
Address: Christchurch Central City, Christchurch 8013, New Zealand
Here visitors will be able to see firsthand the lions, tigers, giraffes, zebras, giant leopards, … and you can take close-up photos of these animals. Not only that, but you can also learn and watch the native birds or the kiwi bird habitat.
Address: 793 McLeans Island Road, Harewood, Christchurch 8051, New Zealand
No. of animals: 400+
This center is part of the effort of the New Zealand government with the US and the Antarctic programs. When you come here, you will be surprised and extremely excited to see the penguins and also discover more about the icy continent through historical exhibitions.
International Antarctic Centre also attracts visitors by its large aquarium, visitors will see the creatures living under the ice and learn about their habitat.
Address: 38 Orchard Road, Harewood, Christchurch 8052, New Zealand
Founded: September 28, 1990
Visit the fruitful kiwi gardens
One of the very interesting and attractive places that I want to introduce more is to visit the fruitful kiwi gardens. Visitors coming here will explore the vast, immense green gardens on the green steppes. When entering these gardens you will find kiwi fruit laden and walk around the garden to learn about how to plant them and how to care for the delicious kiwifruits of this land.
Experience thrilling activities
In addition to the famous and attractive tourist attractions, Christchurch also attracts visitors with thrilling games. Here visitors will be experience thilling games such as giant swing, bungee jumping by Nevis Swing. With a swing at a height of 160m, you will feel both excited and scared to sweat even though you have been wearing a seat belt.
Swim with dolphins
84km to the east of Christchurch on the Banks Peninsula, Akaroa is an English and French settlement with rich colonial history and Maori culture. This is a resort that attracts a large number of visitors in winter. Visitors also can swim with dolphins in summer.
Ideal skiing spot Mt Hutt Ski Area
An hour’s drive from the central district is Mt Hutt Ski Area with 365 hectares of slopes serving skiers of all ages. The ski season usually starts in mid-June and lasts several months. There is a daily shuttle transfer service between Mt Hutt Ski Area and Christchurch.
Antigua Boatsheds is a boat rental workshop that has been operating since 1882. It offers services such as self-rowing boat rental, guided rowing boat, double scull rowing boats, single rowing boat.. If you do not want to exercise, the workshop also has a cafe on-site service.
There is no place in Christchurch where you can enjoy the stunning views of the Avon River like the Antigua Boatsheds. If you are looking for a “virtual live” photo in green, you can come to this boat workshop.
Address: 2 Cambridge Terrace, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch 8013, New Zealand
Construction started: 1882
Mona Vale Garden Park – The park in the outskirts of Christchurch
Mona Vale is a 4-hectare park, located in the Fendalton suburbs of Christchurch. The entrance to the same building in the park is considered New Zealand’s class 1 heritage. Mona Vale space is like a “fairy world”. From architecture to scenery, all corners serve the purpose of “virtual living” of visitors.
Address: 40 Mona Vale Avenue, Riccarton, Christchurch 8011, New Zealand
Bridge of Remembrance
This bridge is not only a symbolic architecture of the city but also a memorial to the soldiers and victims of World War I and World War II.
The stone bridge has a large archway spanning the Avon River. The archway is decorated with elaborately sculpted peace symbols. The Bridge of Remembrance has been reopened since the closure of the restoration due to the impact of the 2012 earthquake. So, you can come here to check-in.
Address: Cashel Street, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch 8011, New Zealand
Opened: November 11, 1924
Hours: Open 24 hours
Sumner is one of the most famous beaches of Christchurch city. In addition to checking in to “live virtual”, Sumner is also a great place to surf. Whether you come here at any time of the day, sunrise, sunset or even noon, you can still take satisfactory photos.
If you’re traveling with family, stop by here at low tide to explore Cave Rock. In particular, this is also an interesting playground for children to explore nature.
It is not natural that couples are eager to come to Port Hills for wedding photos. From the city view to the romantic grass hill, Port Hills is definitely the best “virtual living” place in Christchurch. In addition, Port Hills is also a challenging trekking and off-road bike ride for those who love outdoor activities.
Christchurch travel guide: What to eat
Christchurch is also a great place to enjoy dinner. Choose a cozy restaurant, or order a dining table on a tram ride around the city. Go there and enjoy the lamb ribs made in the Kiwi style, served with wine.
Some other delicious dishes you should try are: ANZAC Biscuits (the tradditional cake of New Zealand, you also buy it as a gift); Grilled Lamb (New Zealand is very famous for its premium lamb throughout the world); Wine is another specialty you must-taste. In addition, Pavlova cake is a delicous cake of this country that is good to bring back as gift.
Christchurch travel blog: Where to stay
In another trip when I traveled here by TranzAlpine train, I stayed at Jailhouse Accommodation (Agoda.com or Booking.com) because it was close to the train station and about 2km from the center. This building was originally a prison, until 1999, when the city expanded and… more crime, inmates were moved to another isolated prison, far from the city. A year later the current hostel owner buys it and turns it into a cheap hostel for backpackers. The building is still keep old architecture, the doors and the rooms are painted, but also tiny, narrow and a little formidable. The 10-person dorm rooms are more spacious and brighter. There is a room that still intacts its original furniture: bed, toilet, decorations … for low budget guests.
Below we recommend more best cheap, budget, mid-range and upscale hotels with good ratings and reviews you can refer to.
- Amross Court Motor Lodge, a top rated 4-star hotel with room rates from $106/night (Check rates on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
- Rendezvous Hotel Christchurch, a top rated 4-star hotel with room rates from $119/night (Check rates on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
- Airport Palms Motel, a top rated 4-star hotel with room rates from $92/night (Check rates on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
- Eliza’s Manor Boutique Hotel, a top rated 4-star hotel with room rates from $136/night (Check rates on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in, from and to Christchurch you can refer to
- Christchurch Gondola Ticket
- International Antarctic Centre Ticket in Christchurch
- TranzAlpine Ticket between Christchurch and Greymouth
- The Christchurch Pass
- Christchurch Tram
- Soaring Kiwi Hop On Hop Off Bus Pass in Christchurch (24 or 48 Hours)
- Shared City and Airport Transfers between Christchurch and Queenstown